Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I had a cool name which was why I hated to change it.

Bobby Jordan.

With a name like that, maybe I should have been a baseball player, but I ended up a portfolio manager at one of the big New York hedge funds.

Either way, there I was on the roof of a boutique hotel in mid-town Manhattan, my ex-wife’s boyfriend pointing a gun at me demanding I hand over a My Catchy Creature – those stuffed animals from the mid-nineties that everyone went crazy over? One of those. It was Shani the Snail. The Shani the Snail My Catchy Creature was not supposed to exist. Arlo Rothstein’s stuffed animal empire - ingeniously named ARLO – repeatedly denied the existence of Shani the Snail in the press, saying it was an urban legend; The Chupacabra of the plush toy world. 

But it did exist. 

And I had it. Not usually my thing, but…

I was almost sure that Leif - that was his name - did not know how to fire the gun he was shaking in my direction and would be scared to death if he did shoot me. 

Picture him dragging me across the roof in the snow, I’m sorry I’m so sorry… A red bloodstain flowering over the front of my Brooks Brother’s shirt, shouting, somebody help me! his glasses sliding down his sweaty nose. I don’t think Leif was ready to risk jail time for Shani the Snail. He just wanted this to be over with as much as I did. If he did kill me, a lot of people would be very upset. Because I am already dead. That is how Leif, who I believe is some kind of artichoke farmer, lives so well; off my investments and my life insurance payout. Because Bob Jordan was on Flight B-2520 which disappeared in a storm over the Atlantic that never even got upgraded to a hurricane, and no survivors were found.  

 

From the desk of Bobby Jordan, 2008

 

There are occasions throughout history at which certain elements are deposited near enough to each other that their proximity creates a recipe for the absurd. 

If Necessity was the mother of Invention, then Excess was her love child. Happy Soda is the story of Excess and its rampage through a century since it came bleating forth across the plains and settling in on the couches and recliners of America.

Consider the last century. A generation dusting itself off from the Great Depression - a time when an economy halted and a nation just over a century old, contemplated extinction… The sons and daughters of the civil war looked starvation in the face and starvation smiled back.  Uncle Sam, that strange totem for The United States of America, hat in hand, sat down on dusty railroad tracks and looked up at the sky for answers. 

The answer came in the form of bombs dropped from Japanese Zeros on Pearl Harbor. 

The assembly line, suggested half a century earlier by Henry Ford, saw its true potential fulfilled in building the machinery of that great war and got people working again. The war was great in its’ scope, not in a “Less filling, Tastes great” sense, of course. War meant jobs and jobs meant people spending money. 

A person worked hard and saved his money and bought a new American car every few years and that meant that whoever built that car had a job and the man who sold it got a commission and a certain lifestyle persevered and a patriotic duty was done. 

Business is an animal that must be fed to be kept alive. This big, horny beast pounded its chest and demanded the biggest piece of the pie and the middle cinnamon roll, the soft one. 

We are all part of a national creed to buy and sell and work and spend…

All Bobby Jordan was doing - all I was doing - was getting myself a big messy piece of that pie. I picture pizza when people say that even though I guess it’s pie – like dessert pie, like cherry or apple. When I was an undergrad at Georgetown, and we would order out, the guys would make fun of me because I would always get extra cheese on the pie. And that is a lot of goddamn cheese.

“How can you eat that?” someone in our study group would inevitably ask.

I had no answer. I do now, though. Happy Soda.

So it was that cheesy, greasy pepperoni pie that I was getting my piece of when I worked for  _____ Financial Group from 1993 to 2003.

 

Oh, the late nineties in America!  Cellular phones, Seinfeld, No Diggity; no doubt.

People said the phrase, “world wide web,” out loud, the whole thing, every time. So much was coming, we just didn’t know what. A small industry sprung up overnight around an unfounded fear that on New Year’s Eve 1999, everyone’s computer would break because short-sighted computer programmers only ever dealt with the last two numbers of a year and come 2000 computers might get all confused and think the year was 1900 and no one would know what was going on. 

We were innocent. 

Most of humankind counted down the end of the last millennium on the thirty-first of January nineteen hundred and ninety-nine. It was a time to be alive. There were a few party poopers who tried to point out that as there was no year zero, the real millennium would not begin until a year later, but after some consideration most of western civilization decided, fuck them, the room has been booked, the hats and signs have been made and all the rest of it.

I remember my wife Holly reading an article out loud to me one Sunday morning about a group of super-rich people who had chartered jets and flew around the world ringing in the new year over and over again as they crossed each time zone. Holly thought it was a tacky display. History would soon show that the new millennium would begin in earnest one year and nine months after that – again in specially commandeered jets, come to think of it.

In the seven years before that fall, when everything changed for everyone, I managed to embezzle close to half a billion dollars from the fund and its clients. 

Securities fraud, is easy to do, but hard to do well.

But the Why remained for me and that was the question that scared me as much as getting caught did. Why was I doing it? What itch was there left to scratch? Maybe I even had a higher purpose.

 

 

It was early in the summer in 2003 and Damon Diggs, a managing director of the fund, knocked and stuck his head into my office. He was a handsome black guy whose tailored suits and shirts advertised his gym membership. He was too young for his own good, and he was almost always chewing gum. His one weakness was Patek Philippe watches. Guys like us – people with a distracting amount of disposable income are drawn to bright shiny objects that make everything we have done to get rich, and however we may feel about it, seem somehow worth it. One of mine was high-end wine. Damon was a watch guy; Rolexes, and so on, but Patek Philippe were the ones that really got him going. He would take them off and hand them to anyone who showed interest. He would tell you about the next one he wanted to buy. One he had an eye on at auction. Like a kid with a baseball card collection or those Star Wars action figures that I had to have when I was young. 

Or a My Catchy Creature doll.

Once, he noticed a politician being deposed in a congressional hearing on television and thought the guy was wearing a Patek. He Googled it later and it turned out he was right. People were talking about it in the company’s chat room. 

This is also Happy Soda.

I would look at these things, trying to see fifty or a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of watch, and I could not seem to. 

I have always been open to the possibility that I am unrefined.

He once said this to me: “People who know what’s up will know what I am wearing. People know quality when they see it.” He shook his arm down letting the French cuff fall over it before lifting his arm again. “Truth, bro, I wear it because it makes me feel good. I don’t give a fuck what other people think.”

“You wear a fifty-thousand-dollar watch because you don’t care what people think.”

I say things like that, and it gets me in trouble. He raised his eyebrows in surprise; at my frankness maybe, but I had no way of knowing how much my comment got under his skin and who knows, maybe that is when it all started between him and me. 

 

            I was getting ready for a trip to Grand Cayman the next day unlike any other. A senator who I had become friends with and who had several million with the fund had told me that he knew a guy that could use a little advice.

“What kind of advice does this guy need bro? Why all the secrecy?” We were at ___ in Tribeca – he hadn’t wanted to meet at the office. Which is kind of normal for a senator, and who knows maybe he had meetings all day and this was the only time he had to ask for favors. Maybe he had heard about the happy hour oysters. 

“Well, look, this guy gives a lot of money to a Super Pac that funds a lot of what we are trying to do.”

Senator No Name was from oil country and the promise of continued deregulation of the fossil fuel industry was what kept him in office.

“So who is he?”

He laughed, or tried to, and contemplated the ice in his drink for a second more. “You’re gonna get a kick out of this actually, he’s former KGB. These guys are making a killing over there. The entire country is being looted. And my guy needs a little advice getting his finances you know – off shore.”

I put on a shocked face. “Why would you think I would know anything about that?”

“Because you know everything Bobby, don’t bullshit me. Save it for your priest or your wife or whoever. Help me out with this. Believe me, these guys are the future.”

 He needed the money for the Super Pac to come from a legitimate source not the Russian Mafia. I had to go to Cayman to close one of my shell companies and talk to one of the bank Presidents where I kept some money. I offered to escort them. 

“No worries man!” My Senatorial friend said with glee. “We’ll fly there on his fucking jet dude. Wait til you see the girls this guy travels around with.”

Not what I needed in my life at that time to be sure, but how do I say no? 

 

It was around noon I was already starving, and getting ready for yet another trip to Grand Caman, this time with sand I asked my assistant, Michelle, to order one of the crab sandwiches from Santiago’s - a seafood restaurant I had invested in near the Seaport. They were supposed to be using Patagonia crab in the crab salad and I heard that they were skimping. The difference is immediately obvious to anyone who knows better. I told her not to say who it was for just to pick it up and get herself whatever she wanted. I always took good care of my assistants. She had just returned with lunch, (and my Cape Cod salt and vinegar chips and Dr. Browns Cherry Soda.) I was at that moment, hunched eagerly over my crab salad sandwich on a croissant, paper napkin unfolded and tucked into my shirt collar, and there was Damon Diggs standing in my doorway.

“Sup dude how’s your weekend?” Damon asked.

My weekend was a nuclear disaster. My wife, Holly had asked me for a divorce because she found evidence that I was cheating. Credit cards, receipts for private jets to Mauritius and Grand Cayman. But I don’t want to pull focus.

“Fine, great, super,” was all I could think to say. “Yours?”

He appeared to think it over and said, “Good.”  He tapped the door frame with a fist –The watch was a Breitling that day - “Lunch tomorrow? We should catch up. Cool? Cool.” 

Then he was gone.

My mouth hung open ready to receive the crab salad sandwich during the entire brief exchange. When he finally turned, I stuffed the sandwich in my mouth. It was in fact Patagonia crab. Did Damon know something? Were there rumors? Did he want a front-row seat for my beheading? Would he try to warn me? Any of these things could have been done by simply closing my door and sitting down.

Bro, you got a minute? Just a heads up…

But the back of Damon’s suit jacket offered no further information. But something – something about THAT was wrong. Way wrong. Dude, I said to myself, if they knew what you’d done, Damon wouldn’t be taking you out to lunch. They’d be in here with security, the legal department, and the FBI. 

 

When I was a little boy, my mother liked to tell me the story of how my dad was a cautious man who went back to the store three times before buying their first television set, yet he proposed after only two weeks. People are funny, she always said. I thought of that story because it was a little like embezzling half a billion dollars over many years only to have a lunch invitation convince me that I was busted. Know when to walk away, know when to run. Kenny Rogers with some sound advice.

  I froze in befuddled terror that this might all be happening. A tractor-trailer, hydroplaning over the divider right toward me. I locked my door. I unlocked my door.  I opened it, trying to remember how to act casual. After lunch there was a meeting in the board room, it would have looked suspicious if I didn’t go. As I crossed the trading floor, countless imagined eyes followed me; every utterance I couldn’t make out sounded like, that’s him… SEC… fraud… but nothing happened. If I was right, it wasn’t going to be today. If I was wrong, I had lost my edge. I waited until the end of the day, watched the September sun set over New Jersey, orange light soaking the city below. Numb, I stared out the window at the incredible view that a lifetime of work had earned me. The sky darkened, the three bridges over the East River lit up in silent majesty and the distant cree of phones died down for the last time in that impossibly large tower.

I went to work. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 0
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Days

Top Posters In This Topic

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share










ALGONKIAN SUCCESS STORIES



WTF is Wrong With Stephen King?















×
×
  • Create New...